Ne-Yo

Further unreleased music as "Schaffer".

Kandi and Tiny

Off The Hook: Unreleased demos from the early 2000s!

P!nk

The Truth About Choice.

Arika Kimble

A career ruined by mp3.com

Shiro

The First Lady of SoulPower.

Monday, May 30, 2022

Unreleased music from two 90s dance divas and The X factor

Unreleased music from two 90s dance divas, formally of Soul II Soul and Livin’ Joy. While Soul II Soul wasn’t a dance outfit per se, their music reached a spanned a whole selection of different genres from R&B to reggae to dance. It was here that Melissa Bell gained notoriety as one of the co-lead vocalists, mostly for “Wish” released in 1993. She left the group in 1996 to pursue a solo career but was drawn back to groups a year later with Dazz, an Italian Jazz-dance group. Billed as “Dazz feat. Melissa Bell”, at one point they were signed to Acid Jazz, the label behind The Brand New Heavies, but their album was not released. The album in my opinion, was a masterpiece, with strong notes of acid jazz, UK street soul, funk and even dance music, the ultimate 90s combination. Highlights for me include a few amazing covers of Des’ree’s “You Gotta Be” and Howard Jones’ 1984 new wave classic “What Is Love”, a cover that retains the song’s original melody with a rocky twist. The street soul tracks are divine, with “Show Me The Way” giving me strong Kiss The Sky vibes. It certainly would not have sounded out of place in 1997 so why was it seemingly on ever promoted it Italy? Sadly Bell’s name wasn’t really mentioned again until her daughter Alexandra won The X Factor in 2008. Most upsettingly she passed in 2017, never truly getting the recognition she deserved outside of Soul II Soul or later her own daughter. And just when you think you've seen the last of it, Cowell's dog and pony show pops up again in 2018 when a very humble lady called Janice Robinson walked out onto the stage saying that "it all started about 23 years ago with a song I wrote, it's called "Dreamer." The former massive voice behind Italian house project Livin' Joy, Robinson absolutely owned the stage that night and her performance is probably one of the most memorable in the shows' 17 year history. Already a veteran at the time, she recorded the above demos in the early 2000s for a project that once again never saw the light of day. With Livin’ Joy’s “Dreamer” since being given a new lease of life in 2022, with a voice, writing ability and passion for music like hers, I still I can’t help but feel this talented lady deserved so much more. So why was she reduced to appearing on the X Factor despite having one of the most memorable voices of the 90s? And of all people to mentor her...a former US soap actress Alya Field!

Monday, May 23, 2022

Ladiez In Question: The sassy all-girl super group

 
Featuring Celetia Martin and another former member of Melodi Brown, Ladiez In Question (L.I.Q.) was another UK group from the mid-2000s that sadly went nowhere. They were flown out to Hollywood to perform and shortly after were offered a million pound recording contract with US dance and hip hop label AV8 Records. They released two singles, the most widely known being “Push Back”, a reply to Terror Squad’s 2004 song “Lean Back.” Described as Janet Jackson, Aaliyah and Left Eye “all coming together and forming one sassy all-girl super group”, a “massive” collaboration was teased for the girls’ debut (perhaps this?) but despite several labels vying for them, things ultimately didn’t work out. One member Zahra Palmer (who was previously with Melodi Brown) said that it was due to members not being “serious” or “driven” so they sadly parted ways. Undoubtedly the driving force behind the group, Celetia Martin had a solo career between 1996-1998. An apt songwriter, her charting songs included “Rewind" and "Runaway Skies", and in 2001 she had a 2 Step hit with Masterstepz called "Sorry (You Lied to Me)". Nowadays, she her songwriting resume includes big name artists such as Janet Jackson and Usher and in 2014, she set up her own publishing company to help up-and-coming talent. In her own words "“I felt that there was so much overlooked and undiscovered young talent out there that wasn’t being given the opportunity to get their foot in the door so to speak and I kept coming across a lot of them and decided to set up the company solely to offer them the chance to access more of these opportunities, and that’s something I’m very passionate about.”(1). For some reason though, her short venture with the above group and another short stint with a further group Monroe are not mentioned anywhere. As for Palmer, a fantastic vocalist, she later went on to be in yet another failed group (Flava) before making her rounds on the dreaded X Factor in 2008. Sadly the only thing she seemed to have taken away from the whole experience was being told by Cowell that she had the "best body" he'd ever seen.

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Suga Holiday: Rollin' On Dubs (Promo CDr) (7ent., 2005)

Having quite a keen interest in underground female R&B groups, here we have yet another one from the mid-2000s. From Georgia, the track almost seems almost like a female take on Nelly's "Country Grammar (Hot Shit)" though I have no idea of the sample used. 

Alessa Jade: S/T (Self-Released, 2003)

Further Latina R&B/pop music with Alessa Jade, a South Florida-based singer who could’ve gone far. She took first place in “Star Power”, a nation-wide competition, and also opened for Carl Thomas in 2002. Of Colombian and Panamanian extraction, she was also one of the artists who opened the “First Annual Latin/Urban Music Festival”, also in 2002. Sixteen at the time, she could’ve quite easily joined the ranks of Xtina and Britney clones (she would’ve certainly given Aguilera a run for her money with the whole Spanish thing) but she somehow never did. Includes a sultry cover of “Loving You Still” which was originally recorded by Tamia for her self-titled album in 1998. Jade cites Tamia is one of her many inspirations. 
 
In an odd stroke of coincidence, an Ecuadorian alternative rock band began recording under her exact same name in 2015. 
 
"Up & coming artist Alessa Jade is a true, rare and soulful talent ready to be seen and heard. A very vocally oriented, versatile singer, Alessa Jade sings Pop, Rock, Hip Hop R&B. Alessa Jade is from Latin Descent, her father is Colombian and her mother is Panamanian and half American. Alessa Jade also sings in Spanish and will be recording her songs in Spanish. Her voice and unique exotic looks captivates her audiences and sets her apart from any other artist in the industry. Born and raised in South Florida, this young lady is often entertaining her family and friends. Thru out elementary and middle school, Alessa Jade took part in many talent shows. At the age of 14, Alessa Jade discovered her passion for performing and joined the drama department to further enhance her amazing talent. Alessa Jade then started taking private vocal lessons, acting lessons and private dance lessons with a local dance school. Alessa Jade has performed for her dance studio recitals, Teen Cabaret, local and state sponsored showcases, Ms. Florida Teen, Ms. and Mrs. Beauty Pageant 2002 and concerts in South Florida. Alessa Jade competed and took first place in "Star power" a National talent competition that travels throughout the United States. She also received an award for the "Highest Points Score" and brought home the "Platinum Award". Alessa Jade opened for Carl Thomas with Bad Boy Records at Club W8th in the village in New York City, New York on August 13th, 2002, Which was promoted by Red Star Productions and Octagon who are affiliated with Bad Boy Records. Alessa Jade has also performed for charities such as Make A Wish Foundation and Boggy Creek Gang Camp. A camp funded by Mr. Paul Newman for the Terminally Ill Children In Eustis, Florida. Alessa Jade was also one of the artist who opened for the "First Annual Latin/Urban Music Festival" in Miami on October 13, 2002. located at the "Bayfront Amphitheater: hosted by "Angie Martinez", "Dj Tony Touch" and other performances by City High. Alessa Jade is currently one of the five finalist who auditioned with over 1,000 performers, of all genders and styles of music to be performing at the 2003 Big Time Talent Show event on February 22, 2003 at the Center of Arts Amphitheater in Mizner Park, Boca Raton Florida. Alessa Jade's inspirations have been Etta James, Aretha Franklin, Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, Christina Aguilera, Tamia and many many more. This multi talented 16 year old beauty lights up the stage with her incredible voice and style. A true performer, Alessa jade leaves her audience intrigued and hungry for more."

Down In The Jungle    3:33
Loving You Still    5:33
Respect    4:26
Whoa    4:49
Break My Heart    3:47

Monday, May 9, 2022

Drop-Kick Productions by Sir-Jam Entertainment

Featuring a selection of male & female hip hop and R&B artists, mostly a very Lo-Fi sound on this demo though a few tracks make use of quite a few good samples and instrumentals not limited to Dennis Edwards’ “Don’t Look Any Further” ( “Tears”) and Monica & Brandy’s 1998 hit “The Boy Is Mine” (Kaycee’s “U-Can’t Be Like Me”).  Obviously from the late 90s, I have no idea who anybody is but possibly originating from North Carolina as per a quick search online. 

Thursday, May 5, 2022

P!ink: The Truth about Choice

Prior to finding success as a solo artist at the turn of the millennium, P!nk (then known only as Alecia Moore) was part of an all-girl R&B trio named Choice with two other teenage girls Chrissy Conway and Sharon Flanagan. Signed to LaFace Records, the trio are mostly known for their only song “Key to My Heart” which made it onto the Kazaam soundtrack in 1998. Of course, at the time, nobody really cared and the movie itself was a relative flop. It wasn’t until Moore found success as P!nk that people made it a point to listen to it. The truth was that the group was basically Moore with two backing singers, or at least that’s the way that some producers made it seem. They preferred Moore’s voice and the other two girls were basically relegated to the background. It didn’t sit right with the other two members, particularly Chrissy Flanagan, and the rest was history. The trio – who at one point were the subject of a bidding war between two competing major record labels - recorded at least 20 songs for their debut album according to one producer. Tracks included “Love Is Such A Crazy Thing” and “Let Me Let You Know” (both of which later made it onto P!nk’s debut album) and “Stay”, a Daryl Simmons track which was later recorded by Destiny’s Child for “The Writing’s On The Wall” in 1999. A few years back, a producer/writer who worked with the group talked of releasing the set in its entirety to iTunes but as of 2022, nothing much has materialized. At one point he admitted ripping the masters (from Digital Audio Tape) to be “overwhelming”. Fortunately owing to connections that we have, somebody sent us a very brief sampler that the producer sent him before going MIA. What is there to say about it? The production is fantastic, as you would expect from LaFace Records in the 90s. Immediately we start out with “Love Is Such a Crazy Thing” and “Let Me Let You Know”, two tracks which were later included on P!nk’s debut album. Nothing much sounds different; in fact, these are the exact same recordings (the former later made it on to a LaFace Records sampler in 1998 and yes, I can confirm personally that it is the exact same recording from “Can’t Take Me Home”.) The rest of the set hovers between slinky mid-tempos and schmaltzy soul ballads with Moore’s former  ”R&B Diva” vocals and riffs primed to the max, a sound that worked so well for her before she decided to "grow up". The writer/producer Joseph Priolo was keen to release the project but the last I could see, needed clearance from attorneys. Maybe one day, it will finally see the light of day.
 
Rumored song titles:
 
1. Love Is Such a Crazy Thing  
2. Let Me Let You Know  
3. Players  
4. Stay  
5. I Love My Boo 
6. Just To Be Loving You  
7. Make Cool  
8. Gotta Be You and Me  
9. My Love Is Gone  
10. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang  
11. If I Ever See Heaven Again  
12. Don't Go Breakin' My Heart  
13. Key To My Heart  
14. Can't Wait Another Day

Sunday, May 1, 2022

Shiro: From the Princess of A Lighter Shade of Brown to The First Lady of SoulPower

Shiro Stokes’ originally started out in an early incarnation of the singing group For Real (then stylized as 4-Reel) before becoming the princess of Chicano rap duo A Lighter Shade of Brown in the early 90s. With appearances “On A Sunday Afternoon” and “Latin Active”, the former of which peaked at no #39 on the Billboard Hot 100, Stokes was to release her first album “Can We Talk” via Scotti Bros in 1995. The perfect marriage of G-Funk and smooth R&B, it didn’t really get the attention it deserved back then. Sadly most of the acts on this label – which was I am guessing semi-independent – did not last beyond one album or single. In 1998, Stokes was picked up by Soulshock & Karlin and rebranded as “The First Lady of SoulPower”. Then at the top of their game, their trademark tinkly and melodious sound was all over her two singles “I Like” and “Good Love” so what happened? Another label that couldn't get their act together in the 90s was Noo Trybe Records. Starting out in 1994, they operated as the urban subdivision of Virgin/EMI Records and became the distributor for Houston, TX-based hip hop label Rap-A-Lot Records up until its demise in the late 90s. This was the most successful venture that they had with acts such as Luniz, AZ and others making the Billboard top 200. Sadly the R&B wing of the label was not as successful with non-existent albums from One Shade (1995), girl trio MQ3 (1997), Teddy Martin (1996) and lastly Shiro. Stokes’ album, titled “Life Goes On”, has been something Stuart and I have been after for years after the artist herself confirmed its existence to us. She had a tape in her possession but did not feel comfortable about leaking it due to “copyright reasons.” So we waited patiently until it showed up and last year the anticipation was finally over, well sort of. A Noo Trybe snippets tape showed up on eBay with excerpts of tracks from the album in question. After a very close bidding war between Stuart and a notorious Chicago-based collector who almost everybody knows about, the tape was eventually won to us for the pricey sum of $1200. $1200 for just over eleven minutes of music. This had better blow us away we thought. Ranging between 1:29 and 2:12 minutes in length and crossfaded for a seamless listening experience, it along with MQ3 turned out to be among our most enjoyable finds from last year, even if it was just over eleven minutes of music in total. From the very ardent “All I Wanna Do” to the sweetly mournful “Rainy Days”, this would’ve made for a truly fantastic album, proving that Soulshock & Karlin were more than apt to take the lead entirely on a project instead of merely being relegated to contributor status. I quite enjoyed Tracie Spencer’s 1999 album but to me, she was always lacking something. Stokes had this and more in my opinion but sadly the label let her down.